28 Jan 2021
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What Is SD-WAN & Why Is It Important? 

More and more companies are talking about SD-WAN. But what is SD-WAN and what are its benefits over a conventional WAN? We’re here to explain. 

What Is SD-WAN?

Let’s get really basic. SD-WAN (say the letters S and D, and then say WAN like it’s a word) stands for Software Defined Wide Area Network. A Wide Area Network, of course, is referred to as a WAN. 

In a conventional WAN, business branches connect to a headquarters or a datacentre with conventional routers and leased-line connections. Business gets done at the branches, but applications are hosted at headquarters. Picture a hub-and-spoke model. 

This made a lot of sense back when actual business applications were hosted at those business headquarters. Now, those same applications may be hosted on-premise, in public clouds, or in private clouds. The hub-and-spoke model of a conventional WAN can result in packet loss, poor latency, bad user experience, and lost productivity. 

Enter the SD-WAN. An SD-WAN is a virtual WAN. It does the same thing as a WAN (that is, it allows you to control your network functions) but it does not rely on routers backhauling traffic. Applications across your network still need quality of service (QoS) and security policy enforcement, but because they are no longer necessarily hosted centrally, it makes more sense to rely on a virtual WAN. 

As you’ve probably seen, more and more companies are leveraging SD-WAN. Here are five big reasons why. 

Improved User Experience Across Multiple Offices

Where are your applications? In on-premise data centres, public clouds, and private clouds? If you’re using a mix of SaaS services such as Office365, Dropbox, Workday, and Salesforce.com, then the answer is all of the above. And when your answer is all of the above, SD-WAN has a clear advantage over router-centric WAN architecture. With SD-WAN, network administrators can securely and intelligently direct traffic across their network. This means they create a higher-quality user experience, increased productivity, and better technical agility. 

Cost Reduction 

Fibre-based broadband speeds have increased dramatically over the past decade. Obviously, this means that costs for a conventional WAN deployment have also risen. SD-WAN pricing has been driven down. 

Facilitates Improvements in Cybersecurity 

SD-WAN allows for encrypted tunnels to be created between every office and location in the network. These tunnels can be a connection as secure as a VPN without the provisioning or configuration required by an actual VPN. Better yet, SD-WAN solutions have built-in encryption, ensuring that only authorized users can access specific assets or platforms. 

Also, if you choose, you may create an SD-WAN with virtual overlays that allow micro-segmentation to extend beyond the data centre. Micro-segmentation means to segment traffic based on application characteristics and policies. As you can see, this kind of SD-WAN facilitates granular control of network traffic and enables companies to tell networks how certain types of traffic should be handled, making it far less likely for unwanted or harmful traffic to enter the network.

Simplifies Your IT Management

If your infrastructure has dozens of company branches and thousands of network devices, using a conventional WAN makes things complicated. But they don’t need to be. Administering this infrastructure on the virtual level with an SD-WAN will simplify things. 

Facilitates a Multi-Cloud Environment

Putting trust in more than one cloud service or application is a decision that more and more companies can make. Often, this is a challenging decision if you’re relying on a conventional WAN. But, as we’ve said, using a SD-WAN means that it’s easier to control network traffic when the network includes multiple branches and clouds. If you’re using an SD-WAN, choosing to use one more cloud service or application is that much easier. 

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